Saturday, December 13, 2008


Helping Kara and Paul

One of my favorite kinds of wandering is when we go to either Ross or Kara’s and do something all together. That’s what happened the first part of November. Kara and Paul bought a house—they closed on Thursday around 5 pm, and we showed up around 7 pm to ‘help’. When we first walked in, we thought ‘hmmm, it kind of smells like old people—kind of musty, closed up, and maybe some pet smells.

Bob and I had a double sized air mattress that we blew up and made into our bed. Kara and Paul had their futon. Kara had the play that she was working with doing their performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings and Sunday Matinee—so she had to leave for all of those, but she had Friday off from school. So we started cleaning and painting like crazy. I washed out all the cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom. They got a primer paint for all the rooms and we got the two bedrooms, bathroom and living room all done.

We pulled up most of the carpeting so Paul could put in hardwood flooring (and the carpeting was pretty dirty—probably some of the smell). We also managed to get in a couple games of pinochle—even though we had to sit on coolers and use an end table for our table. Where there’s a will—there’s a way!

On Saturday, Ross and Richard came and we really managed to get a lot more painting done—including the main coat on the bedrooms, living rooms, and bathroom. Bob and Paul replaced the toilet and we all got cleaned up and went to the play that evening. The students did a good job and one of the custodians gave us a tour around the theatre and into the library. Hibbing High School is pretty fancy! We’re talking lots of marble, plaster moldings with gilding, huge pipe organ, velvet seats, busts, etc, etc. The building is on the National Register of historic places. After the play, we went to Grandma’s for a late supper, however, we discovered they had Prime Rib on Special, so Ross and I and Kara and Paul each shared one. Bob got a salad and Richard got an appetizer.

It’s nice that Kara and Paul are in Hibbing—which is two hours from here and three hours for Ross and Richard—it’s not too far for either of us to drive. So even though we left at 7 pm—we got home by 9 pm.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Monday morning we headed back for the LA area—this time staying right near Disneyland for two nights. From there we drove south and visited some chapters, then drove north and visited some more. We had some time so could have visited Disney, but it’s not too much fun without some kids along.

When we went north, we went on a four lane road that went through some canyons—it’s so funny, because some areas of LA are totally crowded with houses and businesses, but this area was totally desolate—just a lot of rocks and hills, and scrubby brush. I can also see why they have wild fires right in LA.

We left around 2:30 pm from the Northeast corner of LA to go to San Diego. We were a little worried about traffic, but got into a car pool lane and just breezed along—even when the traffic got heavy and slowed right down; we were able to keep going. So we got to San Diego fairly early in the evening. That night we found a seafood restaurant that was right on the beach—we ate on the patio and watched the sun set over the ocean—breathtaking!! Although as soon as the sun went down—the temperature dropped about 15 degrees—they had those heat lamp thingies, so we stayed nice and warm.

Thursday and Friday consisted of visiting more chapters—even one on Friday evening which was at a Buffet—lots of food and lots of people!

On Saturday, we went to the beach and got the other side of us burned a little bit—I didn’t want to get my back and the back of my legs burned anymore, so I didn’t lie on my stomach too much. We also walked along the beach for quite a ways, so we didn’t get burned as bad as last weekend. Then we hiked in Torrey Pine State Park—it’s the only place in the world where Torrey Pines grow—they looked a lot like Norway Pines to me—although their needles were really thick.

That night we went to Old Town in San Diego—we’ve been there before and it’s really neat. We ate at a place that specialized in Baja food—and they served things in buckets. I had the bucket of shrimp and crab and Bob had the bucket of meat (ribs, pork, beef, and chicken). They had a lot of it cooking over an open grill as you came in—the aroma was really enticing. My shrimp had the shell still on—so they had to be peeled and trying to crack the crab legs was not easy, since everything was covered with this Baja seasoning. I went through a whole stack of napkins and mainly ate with my fingers. But it was really good. That seasoning is very flavorful, but not real spicy.

When we left San Diego, we programmed Gertie (GPS) to avoid highways, so we wound through some neat mountains to get to Palm Desert (actually we’re in La Quinta—which is right next to Palm Desert, which is right next to Palm Springs). Have I mentioned before that I wish I knew a little Spanish, so I could pronounce the names of these towns and colleges—La Quinta is pronounced La Cinta.

Speaking of pronouncing—we laughed so hard when Gertie told us to turn on ‘Westward Doctor’. The street sign said ‘Westward Dr.’ It’s a good thing there are two of us, because many times you can’t really understand what she’s saying and it you had to try and read it while you were driving—it wouldn’t be good.

The advisor of the new chapter invited his officers and us to his home on Sunday evening—we went over the chartering ceremony and then I taught them about some of Phi Theta Kappa programs. The advisor’s home was in Desert Hot Springs, and he and his partner then served us a wonderful supper—chicken enchiladas, nachos and dip, and cream puffs for dessert. To get to Desert Hot Springs, we drove thought some hills that were covered with wind generators. I remember when we were out here several years ago and we were intrigued with the number of wind generators on the hillside—well there are 10 times as many now! One of the men that was there, managed a hotel in Desert Hot Springs. He said it has hot springs in the hotel that you can swim in—darn! I wish we would have stayed there!

Monday morning we drove over to Blythe to visit a chapter—it was on the other side of the state and took us a couple hours to drive over there. We had some time before the chartering, so we came back into Palm Desert through the back way and by a large lake. The area we came through had tons of produce growing—we saw lots of fields of peppers, grapes, and some palm trees that had these paper cones hanging from them. We learned later they were fig trees and they wrap the bunches of figs in brown paper to protect them from the sun.

We went over by the lake and there was an old marina and restaurant that looked like it hadn’t been used in 20 years. I was expecting there to be resort areas around the lake, but there weren’t any, so I wonder if it’s salty or not good for fishing or swimming. We couldn’t see any resorts along it. In fact, the area seemed pretty poor and run down.

I chartered the new chapter that evening and then we went back to the hotel. Since it gets dark shortly after 5 pm—we can’t do a whole lot of sight seeing in the evening.

The next morning we drove up to Joshua Tree to visit with a chapter that’s just in the process of chartering a new chapter. The advisor and another employee from the college took us to 29 Palms to a restaurant at 29 Palms Inn. At one time, this was a really fancy resort where a lot of movie stars visited—now it’s a little shabby. But the restaurant was really good. They grow their own vegetables and bake their sour dough bread in an outdoor wood stove. The city of 29 Palms is also home to a huge Marine base--that's where they are training all the military who are being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, because the climate is similar.

Since our flight didn’t leave until midnight—we had quite a bit of time to kill, so we wandered around Joshua Tree National Park for a while. We were here some years ago, but it was very foggy and we couldn’t see very far in front of us. The Joshua Tree is very interesting looking—kind of a cross between a pine tree, cactus, and Yucca. We hiked to a dam and reservoir, but it was dry. It was funny, because there were signs all around saying ‘No Swimming’, but there was no water.

Both Bob and I got upgraded to first class on the way home—it was nice because it was a red eye and we had more room for sleeping. Although you sleep all the way, so don’t get any extra services or a meal. We finally got home again after three weeks away—it felt really good to sleep in our own beds. Although when I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was look for where the alarm clock was—I didn’t even realize I was back home.

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